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Principal Investigator




Vania Broccoli, PhD

Stem Cells and Neurogenesis Unit

Division of Neuroscience

San Raffaele Scientific Institute

Via Olgettina 58

20132 Milan

TEL. Lab

+39 02 26434612

TEL. Office

+39 02 26434616


+39 02 26436164


Broccoli Vania is leading the Unit of “Stem Cell and Neurogenesis” at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan (Italy). He is a neurobiologist interested to unravel the molecular mechanisms that control key processes of brain development such as neural stem cell identity maintenance, neural commitment and migration, neural network establishment and function. Lately, his group has applied new technologies of direct cell reprogramming to convert mouse and human skin fibroblasts into functional dopaminergic neurons. Now, he aims to further strengthen these approaches to establish safe and efficient systems for producing functional human neurons suitable for cell replacement therapies in infantile neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. V. Broccoli has published 64 papers in international scientific journals with a Total Impact Factor (IF) = 492.2, with average IF=7.8/Journal, was cited 2732 in total, with an average citation per item of 42.6, H-index is 27 based on the ISI web of science. He contributed 5 chapters to scientific books and edited one special issue of the “Scientific American” Italian Edition.

Vania Broccoli established his laboratory in 2003 at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute and focused on revealing the molecular mechanisms controlling neuronal differentiation and cerebral cortex development. From 2000 to 2001, he worked at the Telethon Institute of Molecular Medicine (TIGEM) as associate scientist. As post-doctoral fellow, from 1996 to 1999, he worked in Prof. W.Wurst’s laboratory in Munich, unraveling the role played by the transcription factor Otx2 in shaping midbrain-hindbrain junction and controlling dopaminergic neuronal ontogenesis. From 1993-1996, as PhD student in Prof. E. Boncinelli’s laboratory, he studied the mechanisms of brain regionalization and differentiation, in particular, focusing on the Emx and Otx transcription factors during cerebral cortex development. He is contract Professor at the Medical School of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University.


Major Funding of the PI


The Michael J. Fox Foundation Assessing the therapeutic potential of iDA neuronal    cells in an autologous transplantation strategy. 2012.


Telethon (GGP11110) " Molecular bases and in vitro modeling of Cdkl5 dependent infantile neurological disorders". 2011-2014.


Telethon (GGP09117) "Congenital Rett syndrome: cellular and mouse models for the study of FOXG1 impact on forebrain neurogenesis". 2010-2013.


ERANET-Neuron (EU) "Modeling Parkinson’s disease by iPStechnology: generation of human affected dopaminergic neurons and gene disease correction by site-specific integration" 2009-2012.


Italian Ministry of Health - Young Researcher Award (RF12) “Derivation, characterization and preclinical applications of fibroblasts-derived iPS cells from patients affected by Parkinson’s disease” 2008-2011.


Telethon (GGP07181) “Identification of the Arx molecular mechanisms in controlling telencephalon development and GABAergic neuronal migration: implications for Arx dependent neurological diseases” 2007-2010.


ERANET-Rare Diseases (EU) “EURORETT: European Network onRett Syndrome” 2007-2010.


RSRF Rett Syndrome Research Foundation (USA) "Production and first analysis of an animal model for the “early seizure” Rettsyndrome variant: conditional inactivation of the murine Cdkl5 gene" 2007-2008.


Italian Ministry of Health “Trinucleotide (GCG) repeat expansion of the ARX gene and progressive dystonia in infancy” 2006-2007.


Telethon (GGP04141) "Unravelling the pathogenetic mechanisms of Arx mutations leading to several forms of mental retardation, epilepsy and XLAG" 2004-2006.


Italian National Program for Stem Cell Research (CS71) "Derivation and neural differentiation of mouse and bovine embryonic stem cells: an in vitro and in vivo comparative assessment with neural stem cells." 2004-2005. €120,000


EU, 5th framework program (FP5) "Neural degeneration and control of cell polarity" QLG3-CT-2002-01266. 2000-2002.



Post-Doctoral Fellows




Cinzia Cancellieri, PhD


Cinzia Cancellieri obtained her B.Sc in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca in 2007 and her M.Sc in Pharmacological Biotechnologies at the University of Milan in 2010. She received her PhD in Pathology and Neuropathology in 2013 at the University of Milan. Currently, Cinzia is Tissue Culture technician and she is responsible of the organization of the Tissue Culture Room, the maintenance of induced Pluripotent Stem cells (hiPSCs) culture and their differentiation, focusing in particular on monocyte-derived macrophages production from human iPSC.



Gaia Colasante, PhD


Gaia Colasante is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Vania Broccoli’s lab. Currently, she is interested in the generation of functional GABAergic cortical interneurons through direct reprogramming technique, starting from mouse embryonic fibroblasts. To this aim, she is applying her knowledge on cortical interneuron development, gained during her PhD in Neuroscience performed in the same lab and concluded in April 2011. At that time, she studied the role of the transcription factor Arx during telencephalic development, in both GABAergic and glutamatergic compartment.

During her PhD, she had the chance to work in Jeffrey Golden’s laboratory at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, establishing a strong and fruitful collaboration.



Serena Giannelli, PhD


Serena is a senior Post-doc in Vania Broccoli’s lab. She got her bachelor degree in 2000 in Bologna and then she moved to work in the USA (at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York) to than go back to Italy to join the Broccoli’s lab in late 2005 as a PhD student. During her internship in Molecular Medicine program of Neuroscience at San Raffaele University, she focused on the regenerative potential of the retina and she graduated in 2011. Nowadays she is still engaged in retinal studies but she is also interested in finding new application to exploit the CRISPR/Cas9 system.



Marzia Indrigo, PhD


Marzia Indrigo obtained her degree in Biological Science at the University of Milano. From 2007 to 2015 she worked in the laboratory of R. Brambilla investigating the role of Ras-ERK pathway in neurodegenerative diseases in particular the involvement of ERK1/2 proteins in neuronal survival and behavioural effects. In these years Marzia has gained a good experience in Lentivirus (LV) and Adeno Associated Virus (AAV) production and use of them in in vitro and in vivo experiments.



Giuseppina Mastrototaro, PhD


Giuseppina Mastrototaro is a Postdoctoral Fellow. Currently her work is focused on the understanding the roles of SETD5 in intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders. She obtained the bachelor’s (2008) and the master’s (2011) degree with full marks at University of Bari and the Ph.D. in Molecular and Translational Medicine (DIMET) at University of Milano-Bicocca (2015). She has experience in molecular and cellular biology and cell line maintenance, biochemistry, in vitro bioassay, electrophysiology, microbiology, in vivo experimentation and animal manipulation.



Alessandro Papale, PhD


Alessandro obtained his B.Sc. in Health Biotechnology in 2004 and his M.Sc. in Medical Biotechnology in 2006 at the University of Padua. He then moved to San Raffaele Institute where in 2011 he obtained his Ph.D. in Experimental Neurology. He worked as postdoctoral fellow at the Molecular Genetics of Behavior Unit at San Raffaele Institute till the end of 2012, when he moved to Cardiff University as Research Associate. In 2016 joined Vania Broccoli’s lab. His current research topic is the study of the mechanisms of aggregation and degradation of alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s Disease.



Alicia Rubio Garrido, PhD


Alicia Rubio received her Ph.D. in 2008 at the Centro de Biología Molecular “Severo Ochoa” (Madrid, Spain) in Jesus Avila´s lab. Her work was focused on the study of different signaling pathways implicated in the progression of tau pathology in Alzheimer´s disease. As a Ph.D. student, she had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Luis de Lecea´s lab (Scripps Research Institute and Stanford University, California, US) where she studied more deeply the effect of the cortical neuromodulator cortistatin on tau phosphorylation.

In 2010, she earned a 4-year postdoctoral fellowship to work in the stem cell field in Isabel Fariñas´s lab (University of Valencia, Spain) where she was interested in how the division type of adult neural stem cells can be controlled and modulated. She was also involved in the study of Numb, a fate determinant factor, in the division of stem cells and its role in lineage differentiation in a 2-year collaboration in Pier Paolo di Fiore´s lab (Istituto Europeo Oncologico, Milano, Italy).

In 2014 she joined Vania Broccoli´s lab as a postdoctoral researcher and she currently exploits her interests on neurodegeneration and stem cells differentiation by studying fibroblasts-derived iPS cells from patients with genetic forms of Parkinson´s disease.



Alessandro Sessa, PhD


Alessandro joined Broccoli’s lab in late 2005 as an undergraduate student. He just finished his Ph.D. degree (Molecular Medicine, Neuroscience program at San Raffaele University) in which he combined molecular biology, genetic manipulation and high-throughput analysis to address biological processes during brain formation.

During 2011 he spent six months as guest scientist in Guillemot’s lab at NIMR in London to improve his skills in chromatin immuno-precipitation following by deep sequencing.

The overall goal of his research is to understand the dynamics of proliferation/differentiation during corticogenesis, concerning in particular the Intermediate Progenitors Cells, which importance is at the corner between brain development and evolution.



Graduate Students




Lucrezia Folladori



Lucrezia Folladori is a postgraduate fellow in Vania Broccoli’s lab. She received her degree in Pharmacological Biotechnologies at the University of Milan in 2011 and her Master degree in Biology Applied to Research in Biomedicine at the University of Milan in 2014. During her Master internship, in Michela Matteoli’s lab, she studied the role of the protein Eps8 in the pathology of Autism and the involvement of this protein in the synaptic morphology and function. After master degree, she was interested in the role of copper in ageing, in particular in Alzheimer disease, and investigate the role of copper in hippocampal and cortical neurons, and its effect on synapses. In January 2016 she joined Vania Broccoli’s lab where she works on direct reprogramming of human somatic cells into functional induced dopaminergic neurons.



Angelo Iannielli


Angelo Iannielli is a postgraduate fellow in Vania Broccoli’s lab. He received his Master degree in Molecular Biotechnology from University of Turin in 2013. During his Master internship, he attended research laboratory at Neuroscience Institute Cavalieri Ottolenghi (NICO) where he prepared his master thesis focused  on the role of transcriptional factor COUP-TFI in controlling activity-dependent TH expression in adult dopaminergic olfactory bulb interneurons. In August 2014 he joined Vania  Broccoli’s lab where he works on direct reprogramming of human somatic cells into functional induced dopaminergic neurons. 



Pietro Giuseppe Mazzara


Pietro Giuseppe Mazzara is a postgraduate fellow in Vania Broccoli’s lab. He received his Master degree in Medical Biotechnology from University of Padua in 2013. He worked, during his Master internship, on mechano-transduction and growth factor signaling in Xenopus laevis model, in Stefano Piccolo’s lab at the University of Padua. Currently he works on the processes involved in Stem Cells differentiation.





Giuseppe Morabito



Giuseppe is a grad student in Vania Broccoli’s lab. He received  the Master Degree in University of Pisa in 2013. During the Master and Bachelor internship he worked in Cell end Developmental Biology Unit at University of Pisa, where he studied the epigenetic control of developing eye and retina in Xenopus. Currently he is in the Ph.D. Program in Translational and Molecular Medicine at University of Milano Bicocca, and he works on direct reprogramming of glial cells.



Undergraduate Students




Gabriele Ordazzo


Gabriele Ordazzo received his Bachelor’s degree in Medical and Pharmacological Biotechnology (2014) and now he’s attending Cellular and Molecular Biotechnology Master degree in Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milano. He’s performing his Master internship, working on therapies and characterization of Parkinson (PD) pathophysiologic mechanisms in cellular and mice model.


Mattia Zaghi


Mattia Zaghi is a master thesis student in Vania Broccoli’s Lab. He received is Bachelor degree in medical Biotechnology from Vita-Salute San Raffaele university in 2014. Currently is working with Alessandro Sessa (thesis supervisor) on assessing the function of Setd5, a histone methyl-transferase, that has been recently found associated with autism and intellectual disability and also is role during normal neural developement. 


Open position




Open position




Open position




Former members of the laboratory




Maxim Bespalov, PhD




Massimiliano Caiazzo, PhD


Current position:

Post-doctoral fellow

EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland

San Raffaele Scientific Institute



Maria Teresa Dell’Anno, PhD


Current position:

Post-doctoral fellow

Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine

Yale University, New Haven, USA


Luca Massimino, PhD

Current position:

Post-doctoral fellow

Molecular Oncology Unit

San Gerardo Hospital

Monza, Italy


Sara Ricciardi, PhD


Current position:

Post-doctoral fellow

Molecular Histology and Cell Growth Unit

San Raffaele Scientific Institute

Milan, Italy



Ida Luisa Rotundo, PhD




Federica Ungaro, PhD


Current position:

Post-doctoral fellow

IBD Center, Laboratory of Immunology in Gastroenterology

Fondazione Humanitas per la Ricerca

Milan, Italy